Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 

Facile Vega 

Willie Mullins will be hoping he can win the Festival curtain-raiser, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for an eighth time next month with his main hopeful being Facile Vega, who has continued to attract the support of punters despite hitting a roadblock at the Dublin Racing Festival when last seen. He features in more than 2% of all ante-post betslips for the Festival since the start of the Jump Season.

Previously unbeaten in six starts in both bumpers and hurdles, including three Grade 1 triumphs, which featured the Champion Bumper, he was sent off a short-priced favourite to add another high-profile race to his unblemished record but he disappointingly trailed home last of five. 

It soon became apparent there was some underlining issue, as he uncharacteristically folded tamely once under pressure, which left stablemate Il Etait Temps to pick up the pieces, who he had beaten very easily in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle. 

In the aftermath of his display, it was noticeable he wasted too much energy in the first half of the race - he was 5.8 seconds quicker than State Man in the Irish Champion Hurdle to the same path halfway down the back straight. In addition to this, it also came to light he was reported to be lame post-race as well. 

There has been variance in his price tag for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle since his poor display last time, which has saw his odds evidently curdle to second-favourite for a short period of time but lately, punters have latched onto him again in the hope his handler can rekindle his best form ahead of next month. 

I am deceptively suspicious about the form of his Champion Bumper win as well, which looks questionable, as you can frequently pick holes in the form given nearly all of the horses, with the exception of a couple, have been beaten since. For instance, the second American Mike has subsequently been beaten in Listed and Grade 3 events. 

He might well bounce back to his best but even if he does, would that still be good enough to win this? I can’t recollect a novice hurdler that has run so poorly last time and come back to win a Grade 1 next time, let alone at the Cheltenham Festival. His odds remain too short. 

Cheltenham Gold Cup

Galopin Des Champs 

The Willie Mullins-trained Galopin Des Champs undoubtedly underlined his status as the one to beat in the Cheltenham Gold Cup by winning the Irish version earlier this month but still, the question remains, will he prove to be as effective over the longer distance when he returns to Cheltenham?

He has given every indication that he will and maybe it’s his race to lose. Still regarded as one of the most well-backed horses (second since the start of the Jump Season) on the grids for the Festival this year, you can see why he has attracted plenty of attention, as he has yet to reach his peak and has already achieved quite a lot to date over fences. 

Over the recent weeks, the general 7/4 that was previously on offer for the Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite is now widely 6/4. He will be carrying the most Gold Cup bets and with more to come, I think he is a worthier favourite than stablemate Facile Vega in the Supreme.

Champion Hurdle

Constitution Hill 

Last season’s impressive Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, Constitution Hill, is considered not just the banker of the opening day of the Festival but of the entire week. In his career so far, he has continued to make some really good horses look ordinary and his short-price odds reflect his chances for the race. The fact he has been odds on for so long is perhaps the only reason he comes in third on this most backed list.

Given the Champion Hurdle is billed as a two-horse race, with the only realistic danger being State Man, the rest need major improvement to trouble the top two in the betting. Nicky Henderson’s potential superstar has unsurprisingly taken most bets for the day one’s feature and it is all systems go for his big test month with more to come. 

When you put him in comparison to the likes of Galopin Des Champs and Facile Vega, his profile is practically flawless, as he’s done everything asked of him on a racecourse with no faults in his armour displayed as of yet. He has pace, gears, jumps well, can adapt to tactically-run affairs and has all the other ammunition required in abundance.

Arkle Chase


The fourth most backed, Jonbon, had long been favourite for the Arkle Chase after his brilliant chase debut and he strengthened his position at the top of the market when he won the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown. 

However, his latest victory in the Kingmaker at Warwick left many deflated by his performance despite keeping his unbeaten record over fences intact and he was pushed out to second favourite on the back of this success. 

Since then, Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo has taken over as favourite for the first Grade 1 Novice Chase event at the Cheltenham Festival after he enhanced his prospects by winning the Irish version at the Dublin Racing Festival in great style despite not jumping well in truth. 

Still, Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon, who has only tasted defeat once, has attracted plenty of support from his fan base and remains one of the well-backed horses at the Festival representing the Brits despite not being at his imperious best last time. 

It is plausible to think the seven-year-old will prove an even better proposition in a truly-run race at the Festival though, especially when his measurable and precise jumping will come into effect and put pressure on the rest. 

In addition, he has made less mistakes than El Fabiolo, so it’s possible bookmakers have the front pair the wrong way around on the grids. I have put up El Fabiolo ante-post at 6/1 but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jonbon beat him. 

Cross Country Chase

Delta Work 

Rounding off the top five is Delta Work, whose battle with Tiger Roll was one of the highlights of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival. While Tiger Roll is enjoying a well-deserved retirement after an unbelievable career, Delta Work will be back to try and defend his crown after beating the dual Grand National and multiple Cheltenham Festival winner. 

Gordon Elliott’s five-time Grade 1 winner went on to finish a good third in the Grand National and won the Risk Of Thunder on his reappearance, beating Singing Banjo by a neck. 

He could only finish third back at Cheltenham on his penultimate start but still ran well under the circumstances and warmed up for this with a spin over hurdles in the Boyne Hurdle, in which he finished sixth.

He is a very good horse but despite winning on his return and his third at Cheltenham in January, I think he’s slightly regressed this season. I might be proved wrong if he wins again next month but he needs softer ground to be seen to maximum effect and the weather for the Cheltenham Festival suggests very little rain is forecast, which is a negative in regards to his chances. 

When he won at the Festival last year, the ground was described as heavy and it is likely to be good to soft this time around unless the heavens miraculously open up plus he has work to do to turn January form around with Back On The Lash and Deise Aba. Then again, he was conceding a lot of weight to the front pair, so he did well to finish where he did. 

The level of competition is likely to be even stronger next month, so I’m not sure I would want to be rushing into backing him around evens when others are open to improvement in this discipline. His class might see him shine through but his odds seem short enough when you take into account the two who were in front of him in January are strangely trading at double-figure odds. 

Deise Aba ran a huge race to finish second on his debut in this discipline that day and is open to a lot more improvement. At 20/1, he could be interesting, whilst Galvin, Franco De Port and Hip Hop Conti add further strength to the possible intended runners. I suspect Delta Work will need to improve on last year’s success in this to go back-to-back and whilst he remains one of the well-backed horses, he is vulnerable.